Surfer Coco Ho Talks About Competing In Her 30s

Andy Frye Contributor for the magazine Forbes.

Born into a surfing family and set for life on the beach, pro surfer Coco Ho, now 31, has made Hawaii’s favorite pastime her full focus since her teens.

Ho was the youngest woman to ever qualify for the World Surf League Women’s World Tour at age 17. And prior to the WSL, she tore up the youth circuit, winning her first major event in pro surfing in 2005, when she became the Open Women's Regional Champion for Hawaii.

In 2007 alone, Ho won the VQS Championship and the Triple Crown Rookie of the Year award, and nabbed the U.S. Open Junior Pro Champion in 2008. Nearly every year after that until 2016, Ho won multiple surf championships across the globe, from the Pacific to the Iberian coast.

In 2016, she became the Supergirl Pro Champion, and in 2021 also took part in surfing’s debut at the Tokyo Olympics, representing the USA.

Aside from the accolades she’s won over the years, Ho has lived with atopic dermatitis (AD), a condition that affects millions of Americans. Atopic dermatitis can also be triggered by stress and, at its worst, causes intense itching and painful skin lesions across the body.

“Dealing with moderate to severe eczema,” she said, can present complications in her surfing career, “especially for athletes,” because AD can be aggravated by the sun, sweat, sand and salt water present at every surf location and beach.

While continuing her pro career, Ho has taken up a role as an advocate for those who suffer from skin disorders. She’s signed on with Dupixent, a partnership of both Sanofi and Regeneron PharmaceuticalsREGN +0.8%, on their new “Now Me: Beach Mode” program, an effort cultivated to educate the public about AD symptoms.

She adds that advances in medicine have allowed her to keep surfing at the highest level while offering everyday people suffering from skin conditions to experience and enjoy summer fully.

“Working with doctors, (people) have found an appropriate treatment for them to activate their own beach mode. So, I'm really proud to be working with Sanofi and Regeneron on the Now Me: Beach Mode program.”

The partnership also creates content on YouTube and other social platforms that detail the inspiring stories of people navigating challenges of eczema and other skin conditions.

Just after the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, which took place from July 30 to August 7 in Huntington Beach, California, I got to have a quick chat with Coco Ho about her life in surfing.

Andy Frye: You've been surfing all your life, but how has your style evolved over time?

Coco Ho: I think with time, my surfing style has changed because I've learned more about my health and strength. I'm constantly learning that I can be healthier and stronger each year.

AF: What was it like to compete at the U.S. Open in your 30s now?

Ho: Surfing at the U.S. Open in my 30s is really special because I feel like I have a very great fan base. I've been competing there since I was 14 or 15 years old, so I'm very comfortable. Nothing's surprising or new, and I thrive in that stadium-like crowd.

AF: Your father and uncle were both competitive surfers too. How much of surfing is "handed down" in a family like yours, and how much is originally yours?

Ho: I think the tradition and the love of surfing is 100% handed down to me, but the desire to get better each day is what I've created and gained. It’s why I've had the longevity I've had.

AF: What athletes inside and outside surfing have been influential to you?

Ho: I was really inspired by Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams when I was very young. I just loved the tennis culture and how athletic and strong they were.

In surfing, it was Stephanie Gilmore because she was the first surfer girl I saw to blend success in fashion and big endorsement deals, all while being a proud female in a badass sport. They did what I get to do now in surfing. They blended competing and success and fashion all together. Now my generation is getting to do the same.

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